Recap: SWEP Wind Turbine Workshop

-What kind of music did the wind turbine like?

-It’s a big metal fan.


Stanford Wind Energy Project (SWEP) along with the Stanford Energy Club organized a lecture and a workshop with Daniel Connell, an innovator from New Zealand.  He uses scrap metal and recycled materials to create low-cost devices that increase access to energy for remote and rural communities. Throughout his career, he has done work in locations ranging from India to Australia to Costa Rica.


On Friday, there was an interactive talk with Daniel where he explained his background and motivations behind his projects. He spoke about the importance of comprehensive tutorials as they would increase accessibility to these projects, and he also stressed the value of living with the communities and gaining a thorough understanding of the local need before starting to work on a project. Some of his previous projects included a solar-powered cooker that rotated to follow the sun and a vertical axis wind turbine.


The next day, 15 Stanford students attended a workshop to construct one of these vertical axis wind turbines. The turbines we were going to be making had about the same efficiency as horizontal axis turbines and were quite sturdy; he played a video that showed his turbine withstanding 100+ kph winds! To give us a general overview of his design, Daniel showed the open-source tutorial for his turbine, which was a 3D animation. This part in itself was quite impressive as it outlined every cut, screw, rivet, etc of the process and it was evidently a considerable amount of time and effort.


The participants were split into three teams of five, and each team was to build a single vane for the turbine. Daniel instructed the teams step-by-step throughout the construction process, periodically quality-checking the work. Using tape, box cutters, permanent markers, and a triangular tube (utilized as a straight edge and folding mechanism), the teams traced, cut, and folded leftover factory aluminum into the proper shape of the vane. Then, they drilled and riveted the aluminum pieces together. In one last group effort, the three vanes were attached to a used bike wheel and balanced by weight and by torque. The entire construction took about 6 hours.


This experience very enjoyable as it was hands-on and interactive.  Daniel had an immense amount of experience and knowledge, and we could tell this by the instructions and the tidbits of advice he was giving us (i.e. the order that the screws should be inserted or whether a certain mistake would be costly).  What was fascinating was the customizability and accessibility of his work, as he said that all of these materials have been/could be found in just about anywhere. In the end, we all left with a better understanding of the project development process and the unique experience of constructing a vertical axis wind turbine made of recycled materials.


Written by Haley Kong